27 Patterns of Urban Development
From Grids to Loops to Lollipops

27 Patterns of Urban Development

Built landscapes—patterns of streets, blocks, parcels of land, buildings, and related infrastructure at the scale of an urban neighborhood or greater—are often difficult for decision-makers and the public to understand, especially within the complex “collage city” of the postmodern era. Yet understanding the variety of these forms can help stakeholders make wise choices regarding how to plan and design urban regions in the future to meet goals such as livability and sustainability. The analysis shows that 27 basic types of built landscape make up metropolitan regions worldwide, of which nine are very common. Traditional urban types now make up a small fraction of most metropolitan areas worldwide, while suburban and exurban forms comprise the vast majority of the land area.

Each built landscape form offers challenges and opportunities for planning objectives such as livability and sustainability, street patterns, and networks of green infrastructure. When framing urban development alternatives, ensure that local codes and design guidelines enable desired forms of built landscapes and discourage those that are problematic for sustainability. From “Built Landscapes of Metropolitan Regions: An International Typology” by Stephen M. Wheeler in the Journal of the American Planning Association

North American development is predominantly suburban and new urban sprawl, with degenerated urban grids, and workplace boxes.  Since the second world war, the sprawl patterns of loops and cul de sacs have been intensified to become the monotony of new urbanism. Today wide streets and driveways, multi-story snout house homes, corner commercial parking lots, and center block schools have replaced narrower streets and driveways, lanes and swales, single-story homes, main street commercial, and school space.

By plotting linear park elements of lowlands, view corridors, woodlots, and open spaces, the ecology-based mode of development prioritizes the creation of continuous ecological corridors.

Retrofitting both suburban and new urban development can be accomplished by linking the lowlands of existing park spaces and connecting mid-block streets to become through roads.

The overlay of ecological grids of green infrastructure onto the traditional economic grids of main street corridors creates a predominant cellular structure.

Instead of “discouraging modes that are problematic for sustainability”, Green at No Cost measures what matters to optimize economic and ecological benefit.

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About the Author:

Richard Vermeulen

Richard Vermeulen is the founder of Greenlight™, author of Green at No Cost, developer of the Total Benefit Analysis and The Value Process. He’s co-CEO, lead economist, and chief estimator for Vermeulens. Richard has developed industry-leading standards for estimating and data-basing complex construction projects throughout North America. In addition to consulting for thousands of major projects over 30 years, Richard has designed and built residential and commercial projects, from hammering nails to hound-dogging bureaucracies. He has traveled extensively, always with an awareness of how cities do and don’t work.
About the Author
About the Author

Richard Vermeulen is the founder of Greenlight™, author of Green at No Cost, developer of the Total Benefit Analysis and The Value Process. He's co-CEO, lead economist, and chief estimator for Vermeulens. Richard has developed industry-leading standards for estimating and data-basing complex construction projects throughout North America. In addition to consulting for thousands of major projects over 30 years, Richard has designed and built residential and commercial projects, from hammering nails to hound-dogging bureaucracies. He has traveled extensively, always with an awareness of how cities do and don't work.

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